An important op/ed by Fallon Health President and CEO Richard Burke

Important editorial by Falun Health President and CEO Richard Burke

Posted on 12/16/2021 by Fallon Health

At Fallon Health, we know how important family caregivers are. You play a vital role in caring for your loved one – and we understand how this responsibility can affect your life. That’s why we created this blog and the Fallon Health Caregiver Toolkit: so you have a set of practical resources that can help you along the way.

It’s also why our President and CEO, Richard Burke, wrote an op-ed in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette focusing on family caregivers and why it’s more important than ever that you get the support you need. In this timely article, published on December 6, 2021, he notes that the need for family caregivers will increase, and offers solutions for what can be done to support those who bear this enormous responsibility.

Here is this article in its entirety. Everyone at Fallon Health thanks you for everything you do, and we wish you a Happy New Year.

Richard B Burke: Supporting Family Caregivers in the Era of COVID-19

Posted December 6, 2021, in Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Caring for an aging family member has always been a challenging albeit loving job, but the COVID-19 pandemic has raised the stakes for keeping seniors healthy while making caregiving an even more complex task. After celebrating caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month in November, let’s also work to make sure they get the support and help they need.

The need for family caregivers will increase. Today, an estimated 53 million Americans provide care for their loved ones. In Massachusetts, the number is 850 thousand. These numbers will increase for the foreseeable future as our population continues to age. Between 2015 and 2030, the state’s older adult population is expected to rise to 21 percent of the population.

At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the demand for family care as the ranks of formal caregivers are being decimated by the necessity to limit contact between aides and their clients, both for their own sake. As the RAND Research Center noted in a Study of Caregivers and the Epidemic, “Homes have become the default place for both medical and long-term care, and family members are becoming frontline workers.”

This outsized role can place enormous pressures on family caregivers, many of whom also manipulate upbringing and career. Caregivers suffer from a range of physical and psychological problems, from fatigue, sleep problems and a weak immune system to anxiety, stress and feelings of isolation and abandonment.

Caregiving responsibilities also lead to financial and economic losses. About 60 percent of family caregivers work outside the home. The majority are women caregivers, who lose $324,000 a year in wages and Social Security benefits from having to leave the workforce early.

It is clear that family caregivers need our support. Here’s what we can do for those who have taken on the enormous responsibility of caring for their loved ones:

  • Pass the Federal Care Credit Act, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren that would provide a measure of financial relief to those with additional financial responsibilities as family caregivers supporting a loved one. The legislation would provide family caregivers with a credit of up to $5,000 annually for some out-of-pocket expenses related to their care giving.
  • Pass state legislation, called the Family Care Tax Credit, to provide a similar credit of up to $1,500 annually to eligible Massachusetts taxpayers.
  • Raising awareness of the current FSA for Dependent Care, which is a federal tax deduction for certain personal expenses related to dependent care. The law provides caregivers an average of 30 percent of the cost of dependent care services.
  • Foster healthcare models that proactively and systematically engage with family caregivers—a process that can help them manage stress, plan care, balance work and caregiving, and make better decisions for themselves and their caregivers.

Two of those models are the Comprehensive Care for the Aged Program (PACE), which is operated by Fallon Health in Massachusetts as Summit ElderCare, and the Medicare Advantage Plan for Seniors Care Options (SNP/SCO), which Fallon offers under the name NaviCare.

These coordinated, patient-centered programs offer solutions to two of caregiver’s most common demands – keeping care recipients safe at home and providing a respite from the daily responsibilities of providing care. But while the approach represented by the two programs scores highly, only one in three eligible Massachusetts benefits from them. We can do better.

Family caregivers provide an undisclosed service that is essential to the structure of our families and society. Let us honor them by recognizing their role and offering real solutions to lessen the burden they bear on all of us.

Richard P. Burke is the president and CEO of Fallon Health.

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